The novelty of driving Angel's car had well and truly worn off, Cordy decided, as she wrestled it into a parking spot outside her building. Between mercy dashes for books and bile, and ferrying injured demon hunters home -- like some sort of ambulance for the geeky and the undead -- she'd had enough. Any more hauling on the uncooperative steering wheel and she'd have biceps like a lumberjack.
At least Wesley was now safe in his apartment, where she hoped he was getting some much-needed sleep. Her main concern was Dennis, who sat, pale and silent, beside her. Sure, he was in Angel's body, he'd heal fast enough, but the wounds were pretty deep, and still needed cleaning. And Dennis wasn't used to that sort of pain and gore, as illustrated by the big barf-o-rama in the subway tunnel.
She turned to Angel. "Can you walk?"
"Yeah, it's me Cordy. I'm fine," Angel said. "I told you before, I can take care of myself. It's you and Wes I'm worried about." He opened the door, and started to get out, but stopped, panting, and a fine sheen of sweat broke out along his hairline.
"We're fine," she countered, grabbing up her purse. "Witness who is bleeding from multiple stab wounds, and who isn't."
He frowned. "Cordy, it's my job to protect you. And with Dennis slowing me down..."
She went around to the passenger door, bracing her feet on the sidewalk as he looped his arm over her shoulder. "We'll worry about that later. Right now, let's patch you up and get you a nice warm cup of blood."
He shook his head, causing them to stumble a little as they set off up the path. "Dennis is not going to like that."
She glanced up into his clammy face. "Well, drink it over the sink. I don't want to be scrubbing vampire puke out of my rug for the next week."
At the front door, Cordy paused, still not used to having to open it for herself. Finally she propped Angel against the doorframe, fished her keys from her purse, released the lock, and helped him inside, kicking the door closed behind them. One arm around Angel's waist, she steered him towards the bathroom.
He slid down into a black, bleeding pile on the bath mat. "Can I have some water?" he asked, voice hitching.
"Since when do you drink water?" She raised an eyebrow. He pulled a face, like he had a bad taste in his mouth. Of course he did. "Oh. And gross." She grabbed the glass from the edge of the sink, sloshing in some Listerine.
He rinsed and spat in the bath, while she opened her cupboard and rummaged for the first aid kit, the giant bottle of antiseptic, and the roll of cotton gauze. When she turned, he'd stripped off his duster and shredded shirt, and leaned back against the side of the tub.
She smiled. "Better?"
"Minty fresh," he grunted, reaching for the first aid kit. "I'll take it from here."
Cordelia batted his hand away and knelt next to him. She peered into the torn flesh, getting a good look in the bright light of the bathroom. Little chips of thorn and bark had broken off in the deep gashes, giving the revolting impression that someone had seasoned him with a pepper grinder.
"Ugh, as wounds go, this one's particularly gross. I'd prefer not to see your bones without the benefit of an x-ray." She wrinkled her nose, and yanked a swab of cotton wool from the roll, drenching it with antiseptic.
Angel let out a long-suffering sigh. "Cordelia, I can do this my -- aargh!" He recoiled as she dabbed at the biggest hole.
"Hold still," she huffed, going in again.
"It hurts." His voice quavered, matching the tremble of his stomach muscles, and when she glanced up, Dennis' frightened gaze burned into her.
Cordy laid a gentle hand on his arm. "I'm sorry. It'll be over soon. We just need to clean this and dress it, okay? Can't have you healing up with half of the Wicked Wood still in your guts."
His eyes flicked downwards, and he snapped his head to one side. "Oh, God."
"Probably a good idea not to look at it, Dennis." She sat back a little, in case he hurled again.
He kept his eyes fixed on the wall. "I thought I was gonna die."
"You can't die, silly. You're already dead. And so is Angel. It's almost impossible, as long as you don't get staked or have your head cut off," she said brightly. "Or, you know, go sunbathing."
He swallowed hard, even paler than before. "But -- this is bad, right? Worse than normal?"
Cordelia frowned. "No, not really. Angel's always getting gored and shot and stabbed. On the Cordy scale of lacerations, I'd give this about a six-point-five out of ten -- and the hole in your shoulder only a two."
"Oh," he said, his head drooping a little. "Oh dear."
She crawled back towards him, so their knees touched. "Ready for my ER audition now?"
Angel grabbed a fistful of towel, squeezed tight. "Okay, go."
She looked at the bloodstained swab in her hand, then at the bottle of antiseptic, and decided it was better to do it quickly. Gritting her teeth, she poured half the bottle directly into the wounds. There was a loud crack as the towel rail ripped from the wall, flying across the room and bouncing off the doorframe with a metallic clang.
"Sorry," Angel gasped. "I'm stronger than I thought."
"Now he discovers the vampire strength." She rolled her eyes, grabbed another towel and pressed it over the holes in his stomach, soaking up the excess liquid.
The wounds looked cleaner when she lifted the towel away, so she took a handful of dressings, the tape, and the scissors, and began carefully making a gauze patchwork on Angel's stomach. Dennis didn't say anything, and she didn't look up. Seeing his face etched with so much pain wasn't going to help her get this done any faster.
As she pressed the last of the tape into place, she heard a small sniffle, and when she finally looked up, tears were running down Angel's cheeks.
The room spun for a second. Seeing Angel cry was too weird. The vulnerability there just about tore her heart out. "Hey," she said, putting her hand to his face. "Dennis, it's okay. You're going to be just fine. Super healing powers, remember?"
He turned his face away. "I'm sorry, I know the man is supposed to be the brave one."
"You are brave, Dennis. How many people would cope with being a ghost, the way you have?"
He turned back to her and smiled, love shining in his eyes, bringing a light and life to them that changed Angel's whole face. "You're the brave one, Cordy. I'm in awe of you every single day. How you do what you do, no super powers or anything -- that takes real courage. You're so strong." His voice dwindled to a whisper.
Oh God, there went her stomach again, churning, her heart lurching in her chest. "Angel doesn't think so," she murmured, remembering all the times since yesterday that he'd tried to shut her out.
"He does, now. But it doesn't stop him wanting to protect you. Doesn't stop me from wanting..." His hand reached up to her face, fingertips trailing over her cheek, sliding into her hair at the nape of her neck.
Her skin flushed, heat sweeping across it like a wave hissing over sand. She could feel her cheeks burning. This was bad. Very, very bad. Dead, heroic vampire and dead, adorable room-mate, all packaged in a dead, hot body, was so not the type of guy she should be having sweaty-palm feelings for. "Dennis..." The word came out as a tiny puff of air.
His eyes drifted to her lips again. "Cordy," he whispered, the hand in her hair gently pulling her face closer. He was going to kiss her, and right at that moment she couldn't remember any of the oh-so-important reasons why it was so, so wrong.
Angel's nose brushed hers, a soft, cool sweep. He hesitated, his face so close she could feel the energy humming between them, then slowly, slowly, pressed their lips together. The burning in her cheeks spread, all her erogenous zones sparking to life as he tilted his head, opened his mouth.
A little moan rumbled in his chest as her tongue darted out, tasting him. It was like a schoolyard kiss. Gentle and heartbreakingly sweet. Then his energy shifted, tongue sweeping into her mouth, plundering her, his hands palming her face --
She broke away, gasping. "That was --"
"Uh-huh." The voice and shocked expression belonged to Angel. "I, uh -- hmm."
"Yes, right. Okay, then." Cordy began to snatch up the medical supplies, jamming them back into the first-aid kit.
Angel pushed himself up on the side of the tub, picked up his shirt and rolled it into a ball. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to kiss you. It's just, uh, Dennis. He really likes you."
Cordy froze. "Some of that kiss was you?"
He avoided her eyes. "Just the very last part."
The tongue part, oh great. She tried to make a quip, break the tension, anything to stop this terrible, embarrassing silence that now hung between them. "Um..."
"I couldn't help it. You know what Wes was saying earlier about bleed-together of the souls?" Angel said.
"It's getting worse. I could feel -- what he felt." He shrugged apologetically.
"Well, just try feeling yourself for a moment, and boy did that come out sounding waaay wrong." She tossed the dressing wrappers in the little bathroom trash can, and backed towards the door. "Let's just forget about this and go to bed." At his look, she amended, "Separate beds."
Angel nodded, looking relieved. "Good idea."
Cordelia heaved a sigh, and twisted onto her back. It was hot, and she kicked off the covers, splaying her arms and legs across the cool sheet that covered her mattress. Weak beams of moonlight slanted across her pillow and she could almost feel their silver touch on her cheek.
She tried not to think about it. About how Dennis' kiss made her feel. About him, out there on the couch. About how easy it would be to slip out of bed, go to him, recapture that one, sweet moment.
But then there'd be the horrible awkwardness that ensued once he was back, floating the hallways, and she was left to face the real owner of those lips. She sighed again, rolled on her side, punched the pillow, and tried to settle down.
She gasped, jack-knifing into a sitting position. "Jeez! Stalk, much?" She blinked in the blue-grey light.
He filled the doorway, dressed only in boxer shorts.
She was just about to ask if he was all right, when he stepped towards her, and the shadows fell away from his face. He looked nervous, lower lip caught between his teeth. His arms were crossed over his chest, as if he were uncomfortable with so little on.
She squinted at him. "Dennis? Are you okay?"
"I couldn't sleep," he replied, in his un-Angel voice.
She rolled her eyes. "Well, duh. Vampire. You're a creature of the night, remember?"
He padded towards her, perched on the edge of her bed. The stark, white squares of surgical tape and gauze rumpled as he sat, and his hand went to his stomach, cradling it. "Ouch."
"Let me see," she said, picking at the corner of the tape nearest her. The dressing curled back, exposing nothing more than a deep, purple scar. "Look, no more cartilage. You'll be all better by morning." She patted it back in place.
"Until the next time," he said, turning to stare at the window. "You'll have other visions. Angel's in danger while I'm here, like this." His eyes met hers. "You're in danger while I'm here, like this."
"Don't beat yourself up, Dennis. This is our fault, mine and Angel's and Wesley's, not yours," she sighed. How had the simple act of saving a friend become so messy?
He twisted back towards her, his hand coming to rest on her knee. "Don't say that. You've done so much for me. I'd still be stuck in the wall if it weren't for you. Tonight, I just wanted to show you how much you meant to me. But it all went wrong." He looked up at her, his big, dark eyes full of so much pain that it made her stomach hurt. He reached out, hooked a stray hair behind her ear. "I need you, Cordy. Too much to ever lose you."
Oh, God, why did he have to say that? What little resolve she had left began to drain away, but she shook her head. "Oh, Dennis..."
His gaze went fuzzy, distant. "I've decided to let you put me back. To the way I was before."
She gasped. "Dennis.... Oh, hell." She shook her head. "You don't have to. Not for me."
"For all of you... us," he said. Then he looked at her, smiled wistfully. "It seems so strange, thinking of going back. Being what I was." His big, cool hand cupped her face, thumb grazing her cheekbone. "I just want to hold you. While I can."
The sweetness of those words broke her. Surely it couldn't hurt? No funny business, just her, giving Dennis -- giving both of them -- something good to remember.
"Okay." She patted the mattress, and he crawled tentatively up the bed, easing himself onto the pillows beside her.
He reached out, and she took his large, pale hands in hers. With a little sigh, he pulled her down, circled her with his arms. Immediately she felt safe, protected. Her head came to rest on his shoulder, her body nestled in the crook of his elbow, and without thinking, she looped her leg over his.
"This is -- nice." The words were a comforting rumble in his chest.
"Mmmm," she murmured. It was nice. To lay there, snuggled against someone who really loved her. Someone who knew and accepted her, visions and vampires and the whole squicky package. Someone who didn't want to use her uterus to raise a demon army.
She'd never had this before. Never wanted -- needed it as much as she did right now. Something good and real and beautiful to get lost in when the death and mayhem in her head threatened to overwhelm her. Cordy wriggled closer, butting her head up under Angel's chin, feeling his hand tighten on her hip.
Her field of vision was filled by the expanse of his torso; smooth, hard pectoral muscles, well-defined abs peeking out under the dressings, and the little hollows just inside his hip-bones, where the pale skin disappeared under the waistband of his boxers.
And below that -- boy, howdy.
Red warning lights flashed behind her eyes. Thoughts like that were going to get her into real trouble. She felt her breath hitch, quicken.
This was Angel, here. Boss. Vampire. Gypsy curse. A total no-bone.
Except it wasn't. It was Dennis in an Angel-shaped package. And one hell of a package at that.
Suddenly she was very aware of his skin against hers, the way his fingers traced little patterns on her hip, his Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed hard -- twice. He was warming, absorbing her heat, breathing -- she wondered if Dennis knew he didn't have to. He felt real. Alive.
A hot, sweet ache flared between her legs.
His other hand brushed up her arm, over her shoulder, the back of his fingers stroking her cheek. Gooseflesh broke out all over her body. His thumb, calloused, rough, traced her lower lip. Rational thought fled, leaving behind a yawning void of desire.
The hand on her hip shifted, sliding under the soft cotton of her top, palming her lower back, and rubbing in wide circles. Her top rucked up, her shorts rode down, and her skin burst into flame.
"Dennis," she moaned, arching against him, all restraint gone.
He turned towards her, rolling her on her back, draping his big body over her. His hands found her stomach, spanned her ribs, pushed up beneath her breasts, and she gasped when his fingers touched her nipples. They both went still.
"You're so beautiful," he murmured.
Instead of answering she slid her fingers into the short hair at the nape of his neck. He bent forward, dropped a trail of little, damp kisses on her collarbone, while his hands moulded around her breasts. She pressed into his palms, lost in the sensation. Not thinking, just feeling. Dragging her hands down his smooth, strong back. Winding her legs around his. Pressing her face into his neck.
He shivered, and his cock grew hard between them, swelling against her thigh. "Cordy," he whispered, his lips grazing her forehead.
She tilted her head back to look at him, and what she saw stunned her. She wasn't looking at Angel, but Dennis. She could see him, in the light and love that shone in his face, the sparkle of joy in his eyes, the smile that took her breath away. "Wow."
His lips nuzzled the corner of her mouth, and she turned into the kiss, taking him in, greedy, wanting. His tongue wet her lips, swept across the sharp edges of her teeth, and plunged in.
She was diving, spiralling into a deep hole where all that existed was the feeling of his mouth, the sound of his breath, the spark of his hands on her body.
Leaving behind the fear and the faces of the frightened and needy. Not abandoning them, just taking back some of herself, for now.
Angel's fingers left her breasts, traced trails of fire down her stomach, skirted the drawstring of her shorts, and finally curled around her hips, pulling himself deeper into the cradle of her thighs. His mouth was hot and wet on hers, long deep kisses that left her no breath, no room for rational thought.
Oh God, he felt so good, so hard between her legs, and a noise she didn't know she was capable of making rose from her chest, spilling out as he ground against her. She felt his energy shift again. Now he was frantic, eating her, little grunts of pleasure vibrating in his throat. Almost like kissing a different...
She pulled away, leaving him panting, dazed. "Dennis?" she asked.
"What?" He blinked, eyes unfocused and warm with lust.
"Just checking," she said. The prickle of anxiety dulled, but a stab of guilt pierced her chest. It wasn't just Dennis she was kissing. As much as she didn't want to think about it, this was Angel, too. What if he didn't want this? What right did they have --
He leaned in to kiss her again, and she turned her head away.
"What's wrong?" he whispered.
"We can't do this -- can't just -- use Angel this way," she said, trying to ignore how his hips pressed into hers, how her body was crying out for him.
He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and when they opened again, Dennis was gone. But the desire remained, burning unabated, and for some reason it made her even hotter, more desperate.
It freaked her out.
"Angel, I'm --" she gulped, self-consious of how her breasts pressed against his chest through the thin cotton shirt.
"It's all right," he replied, his voice husky.
She bit her lip. "But, it's -- us."
He shook his head. "No, it's not. It's you and Dennis."
Was he really giving her permission to --? Her heart lurched, a hundred questions swirling in her brain, but only one needed to be asked. "Angel -- the curse. Is it safe?"
"I don't know," he said, and his fingers tightened just a little on her hips.
"Then we can't," she said, frustration bubbling in her chest.
"Yes, you can. Just, not too far, okay?" He looked at her with those smouldering, dark eyes, and she understood.
"Right. Clothes stay on, everyone's fine." She took a deep breath. "Are you sure you don't mind?"
"It's okay, Cordy," he whispered. "Just let him have this, so he can go."
The words tore her heart in two, and her vision blurred. She didn't want Dennis to go, didn't want to give this up --
"Cordelia." The voice that spoke her name was Dennis', and when she blinked the world back into focus, his sweet smile filled her gaze.
"It's not fair," she murmured, squeezing his shoulders.
"It's all right," he said, his voice wistful, a little sad. "We have this." He released her hips, slid his hands up her sides, up her arms, raising them above her head, pressing them into the pillow, and finally linking his fingers with hers.
His lips traced her jawline, baby kisses, skittering away down her throat, over her collarbone. His tongue grazed the cotton top, and then his mouth closed over her breast.
"Oh," she gasped, wriggling beneath him. The feel of tongue and teeth through wet fabric put her whole body on red alert. She arched into his mouth, and his hands left hers to delve beneath her shoulderblades, lift her closer. He turned his attention to her other breast, and Cordy's skin began to hum, every hair on end, sensitive.
She squeezed her legs around his thighs, took his face between her palms and brought him back to her mouth. A low rumble shuddered through him as their lips crashed together. His hands were back on her breasts, fingers pinching and rolling the nipples through the damp t-shirt. Her stomach quivered, and the need to move overwhemed her. Her hips jerked against him.
"Cordy," he grunted into her mouth, and thrust back. Through the soft boxers he was hard as stone, and the friction of him, pressing just there sent a shower of sparks off behind her eyes.
"Yes," she hissed, grabbing his ass, pulling him closer. He ground against her, his cock hitting the spot again and again. She could feel him throbbing, wondered if he was going to lose it, felt his hips buck faster and faster and they really should stop --
Tremours ran up the inside of her thighs, her womb clenched, and this was just too, too -- "Ahh!" she cried, as she shattered like her crystal ornament.
Above her, all movement ceased.
When she could think -- breathe -- again, she looked up into Angel's face, Dennis' worried eyes.
"Are you okay?" he asked, his breath slowing, evening out.
"Whoo, doggie." She grinned. He frowned, and she couldn't stop the little giggle rising in her throat. "That's 20th century speak for 'hell, yes'."
She was so relieved, she sat up and hugged him. It hadn't been at all weird. Angel's body, yes, but Dennis' life essence. It felt right, normal. She remembered what she'd thought, the day she got home from the hospital. Hot and corporeal -- the perfect man. Funny how things turned out. How right she'd been -- and how it could never be.
The bubble of euphoria popped, leaving behind a bittersweet glow.
Angel grabbed her hips, pulled her onto his lap, her legs straddling his, so they were chest to chest, and his cock pressed right into her pubic bone, making her shiver. He reached up and stroked her face, a sweet, caring touch that had no right to make her as hot as it did.
He nipped at her lower lip, seemed just content to hold her close and share little, feather kisses.
"So you liked it?" he asked, his mouth against hers.
"Of course. Why, couldn't you tell?" she said, pulling back to look him in the eye.
He dropped his head, avoided her gaze. "I have to tell you something."
"What, you have a ghost-wife?" She managed a smile, and wriggled on top of him, so that he closed his eyes and inhaled sharply.
"No," he said, obviously struggling to keep focus. "It's just that I've never -- I mean, you're the -- I haven't..."
Her eyes went wide -- Dennis was a virgin. He'd wanted her to be his first.
Of all the times he'd made her feel special, this was the best, the most. She leant forward, kissed him. "I love you, Dennis."
The air in the room shimmered, and he jerked back, pushed her off of him, his back hitting the headboard and making it rattle against the wall.
"What's wrong?" she asked, reaching out to him.
"You have to stop. Now," he gasped, and it was Angel's voice, Angel's anguished gaze that pinned her.
Cordy's stomach plummeted. "Angel, what's going on?"
"You just made Dennis happy," he said, his voice cracking. His eyes dropped to his lap, and he snatched up a pillow to cover himself. "Really, really happy."
"So?" she shrugged, trying not to shiver when Angel's eyes were drawn to her breasts, nipples visible through the thin, wet t-shirt.
"The bleed-together. In the bathroom today, I felt his feelings. It just happened again. It's still happening," he gulped, his chest heaving as his hand began to move in the same direction as his eyes.
Her body reacted, nipples hardening, and she leaned into his touch.
They both inhaled, sharp and fast, when his hand moulded around her. She moaned. "This is bad." She was so hot, itchy. God, just one touch and --
Then it hit her. If Dennis was happy, Angel was happy. And Angel being happy was never a good thing. She jerked back, leaving Angel's cupped hand suspended, mid-air.
"Good," Angel said, voice rising. "That's good. I mean, it's not good. But it's good that you --" He made a funny little "argh" sound and shut his mouth.
"Yeah," she said, catching her racing breath. "We should stop. We have to stop. A happy Angel is nobody's friend." But she couldn't help glancing at the pillow at his waist and thinking about what was behind it.
Angel followed her gaze and when he looked up, his eyes were so full of heat, of sadness that it took her breath away.
"Angel?" That shiver danced across her shoulders again and she wrapped the sheet around her. Her eyes stung, her throat ached. "Damn," she said, already feeling the pain of separation.
She rose and went to the closet for her robe. The midnight-blue satin looked like a shimmering black sky in the dark bedroom, and when she wrapped it around herself she realized that she felt as isolated and cold as a star. Taking a deep breath, she turned. "You okay?"
He stared down at the pillow. "We should call Wes." The finality in his voice was so -- final.
Cordy walked slowly to the bedroom door, feeling like everything was moving in slo-mo.
She stopped, staring down at her bare feet. "Yeah?"
Her breath trembled and she raised a hand to wipe the wetness from the corner of her eyes. She didn't answer. Instead, she went to the living room and dialed Wes.
He arrived thirty minutes later, his plaid shirt buttoned wrong and his hair standing up in the back. "Coffee," he croaked, as he walked through the door.
Cordy handed him a steaming mug. She'd put on her jeans and a sweatshirt while the water boiled. Angel was still in the shower. She was trying really hard not to think about what he was doing in there.
Wes swigged out of the mug, took a breath, and swigged some more. "Okay, that's better." He followed her to the couch, where they sat, thigh to thigh. "Why the urgency?"
She stared at her clasped hands. "Dennis is worried he's hurting me -- us -- by staying in Angel's body. With the wounding and the, well... Anyway, I think now's a good time to do it."
The bathroom door opened and Angel walked down the hall dressed in clean clothes. His hair was still damp and he moved stiffly, as if the shower hadn't done anything but give him more time to worry. "Hey, Wes." He sat on the chair across from them, careful not to meet her eyes. "You bring the stuff?"
Wes nodded. "It's in my bag." He inclined his head towards the duffel bag he'd left near the door. "I've tweaked the spell a little. It should work a treat." The mug clattered against the pine coffee table and he stood. "Best to get right to it, I suppose."
Cordy looked at Angel. "You ready?"
His gaze met hers, but slid away again. "Yeah."
They sat, tense, while Wes made the circle in the dining room. Finally, he called, "It's ready."
Cordy stood and made her way to the other room. As she passed Angel, he touched her wrist. She turned and found herself looking into Dennis's eyes. Her lips pressed together and she inhaled sharply through her nose.
Their gazes caught, held. One beat. Two. He shot her a brave smile. "Ready?"
Her heart twisted. She took his hand. "Ready."
They walked to the circle and Angel stepped in and crossed his arms, waiting.
"Here." Wes handed her the herbs and a lighter.
She lit the string-wrapped packet and the smoke wafted up. Her eyes stung, watered, and she blinked to clear her vision. When she looked up, Dennis was watching her.
Cordy waved the herbs while Wes chanted. Even as the wind grew, circled, she didn't look away. Angel stood still, calm, the eye of the boiling storm.
Wes's voice got louder, more insistent. The throw pillows lifted off the couch and the coffee mug rattled against the table. Cordy's hair whipped around her face. The smell of sage and osha root, bitter and pungent, filled the air.
The sound built to a dull roar and the windows chattered. Cordy grabbed Wes's arm and held on, but she never let go of Dennis's gaze.
Finally, he began to fade. Angel's own, familiar gaze grew stronger and his face took on its normal shape. No longer soft, blurred by Dennis's sweet spirit.
Her breath hitched and she closed her eyes.
She shook her head. The wind howled and the pressure in the room increased until it felt like her skin was melting into her bones.
His gentle tone had her opening her eyes helplessly. And he was there, barely holding on, but there. "You're my world, Cordelia. Don't forg--"
Lightning cracked. The sharp smell of ozone filled the air and she felt herself flying, falling. The impact knocked the wind out of her, leaving her reeling.
When she caught her breath, she realized she'd hit the back of the couch and was huddled on the floor. Wes, across the room and limp as a ragdoll, shook his head and groaned. "Wes?"
"I seem to have a penchant for meeting the wrong side of walls these days," he croaked. "How's Angel?"
She glanced over to the circle and found Angel collapsed, unmoving. "Angel!" She ran to his side, and when her foot broke the circle, he stirred. She dropped to her knees and put her hand on his shoulder. "Angel?"
"Yeah, it's me."
She looked up at the ceiling. She was almost afraid to call for him. What if he wasn't there? What if he was? She took a deep breath. "Dennis?"
Nothing. Her shoulders tensed. "Dennis?!"
They waited in the quiet, storm-tossed room, the tension growing.
"Oh, Cordelia. I'm so sorry," Wes whispered. He brushed his hand over his mouth, took a shaky breath.
Cordy's shoulders squared. "No! He's not gone!"
Angel took her hand. "Cordy."
She stood, yelling at the walls. "Dennis!"
"No!" She stomped her foot. "I won't let him be --"
She glared at Angel. "What?"
"He's not gone." He nodded to the little glass unicorn, suspended mid-air about six inches above the floor.
Her eyes watered. "Oh." She crossed, squatted next to the figurine, and put her hand beneath it. The air around her breathed a sigh and the unicorn dropped safely onto her palm. "Oh, Dennis."
She felt him caress her face, ghostly cool. And then he moved away, disappearing back into the walls.
Wes rose and helped her up. "You okay?"
She wiped her face with a trembling hand. "I think so." She went to the curio cabinet and put the unicorn down next to the other figurines. When she glanced up, Angel was staring at her, an odd look on his face. "What?"
"He's not gone."
"Of course he is," she said, on a laughing sob. "He's back in the walls, where he belongs."
Angel shook his head and touched his chest. "No, in here. I still have his memories." He smiled tenderly at her.
"Oh." She smiled back.
"Why didn't someone tell me I was done up wrong?" Wes groused, brushing at his misbuttoned shirt.
"Sorry," she said. "Next time we will." Her smile grew.
The corners of Angel's eyes crinkled.
Wes yawned, loudly.
"Go home, Wes," Angel said. "You're exhausted."
Cordy turned. "Yeah, don't worry about this." She waved at the upside-down room.
"Oh, no, Cordelia. Surely you don't mean --"
"You're not getting off the hook that easily. You can come over and help me clean tomorrow. After you recover from concussion number -- what are we up to, now?"
He smiled. "Right-o, then. I'll just be off. Angel, you'll be okay here with Cordelia?"
He tucked his hands in his pockets. "Yeah. We're good."
Wes packed his duffel with what was left of his supplies and went to the door. "Good night, Dennis," he called quietly.
A light wind blew through the room and Wes smiled and closed the door behind him.
They were left in the silent, chaotic apartment. Throw pillows littered the floor. The circle in the dining room looked and smelled like something dug up from a Sunnydale graveyard.
Angel went to the couch and started straightening pillows. "I'll just finish the night out here on the couch."
"Right," Cordy said, relieved and a little disappointed. "I'll get you a couple of clean blankets, then." She waved a hand in front of her nose. "Otherwise, you'll feel like you're sleeping in an ash tray." She went to the hall closet and started pulling out blankets and pillows.
At the touch on her wrist, she stopped. She looked at her raised arm, at his hand clasping the slender bones. He was so pale against her, like spilled milk. "Angel?"
He pulled her hand down and turned her to him.
"Angel?" she repeated, her gaze flying to his. He was staring at her with such longing, it took her breath away.
She tilted her head, mesmerized by his gaze. "A-angel?"
He shook his head and pulled her close.
She held still, unsure.
"It's okay," he whispered, and she relaxed against him.
His right hand rose and his left cupped her waist, and he began moving with her in a slow, graceful waltz.
Cordy rested her head against his chest and let him lead her, just like Dennis had taught her only a few hours before. And then it was just them. No music, just them alone in the darkened hall. For a moment she let herself be swept up in the memories, in the dream that he was her whole world, just like she was his.
After a few minutes Angel stopped and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "Good night, Cordelia." He took the blanket and pillow and disappeared into the living room.
She stood in the hall, staring after him. The light clicked off, bathing the apartment in darkness. "Good night, Angel."
Her hand rose, fingers stroking the door jamb. "Good night, Dennis," she whispered. Her favorite cotton blanket slid out of the closet and wrapped itself around her in a warm embrace. She could almost hear him whispering, "Good night, Cordelia."
She drew it to her tightly, then went to her room and closed the door.